One of my two weaknesses is basic math--adding, subtracting, multiplying; count me out of essentially everything with numbers except long division, which I am excellent at. I've been told that division is really just the reverse of multiplication, but if that were true than I would be able to multiply, and I can't. So that can't possibly be right.

(In case you were wondering, I consider my other weakness my throat. Even the slightest cold will settle in my throat, I'll lose my voice, my ears hurt, I can't swallow, it's horrible. )

The reason I bring this up, (my abysmal math skills, not my throat), is because I'm now a tutor at Roots of Music, a truly exceptional after school program in the quarter. After Katrina, most middle schools cut their music programs, so Roots of Music was formed to fill the gap between elementary school and high school. The kids go for an hour and a half to academic tutoring (me) and then on to band practice, and then they have dinner and go home. There are some very talented kids there, and it's a worthy cause, which is why I'm sacrificing my Tuesday afternoons.

Also, Tulane requires every student to complete 40 hours of public service per 2 years in attendance, so...I have to to graduate. But it is a great cause.

Today was my first day and I sat down with a group of four boys who ranged from 3rd to 7th grade. First we spent a solid ten minutes going over their names: Laird, Kristiaan, Kenneth (who preferred to be called Zero...added layer of confusion), and one another one that I couldn't figure out. Laird was working on pronouns and antecedents, piece of cake. Except his book clarified, not kidding, in a proper textbook, that "hisself" and "theirselves" are not proper pronouns. Cripes. Kristiaan and Mystery Child had math and it was the hardest my brain has worked since pre-calc in high school. That's saying something. Tulane's no cakewalk, trust me.

Finally, Kenneth/Zero was working on definitions for science, and for each word he had to have examples. His word was chemical. His first example?

K/Z: "Chemical...like you put on your hair. Do you have a weave?"

Tutor Lauren: "No, my hair's real. That's not important though. What's another example?"

K/Z: "Ohhhhh sure you don't have a weave. I seen lots of weaves. Your hair's long like that, you got a weave."

Tutor Lauren: "That has nothing to do with what you're doing. Let's think of another example."

K/Z: "Yeah you got a weave--"

Laird interjects, "She's white dummy, their hair grows like that."

This kind of racial distinction is normal, though instances like this still make me uncomfortable. Race is still very much a part of everyday thought there, unspoken or spoken, and that was one part of coming to the South that was tough to adjust to. More on that later. All I can say is thank God my friends Morgan and Karrington explained to me last year the trials of tribulations that black women go through with their hair. If you've never seen Chris Rock's documentary Good Hair, you should. Otherwise I would have asked what a weave was, or why on earth you would ever put chemicals in your hair, at least not the kind that we were talking about. Cultural crisis averted.

Kenneth/Zero and I get back to examples.

K/Z: "Chemical...like earl."

Tutor Lauren: "Earl? What's earl?"

K/Z: "You know, earl. Like from the ground. Earl."

Tutor Lauren: "Um...spell it for me."

He writes out o i l. Oil. Oil, earl. Sometimes I feel like I'm speaking a different language. I could be in a foreign country.

After that it got easier, they actually were pretty funny and really eager to please. They all go to Catholic private schools so we picked out Bible verses to memorize, and they all had French homework too, which I thought was kind of cool. They also had the most beautiful handwriting, all of them wrote in perfect cursive. Leave it to the Pope. And now I'm actually looking forward to next week, which goodness knows I didn't expect.

In other news, I got my new debit card and it has a waterfall on it. Few people here have seen one in real life, so it's a lot like show and tell. Also, my Southern friend has never been through a tunnel. Imagine that.

xoxo, Lauren

p.s. Emily is still on The Bachelor but she wore 5-inch stripper heels at the last rose ceremony. So disappointing.